Kevin Peterson turned shopper recently, needing to do a little home decorating in advance of fall camp.
Bumping into a few of his newest Cowboys teammates, the Oklahoma State junior was struck by how imposing the freshmen were – already.
“The very first day they reported, I had to go to Wal-Mart for a futon for my room,” Peterson said. “I saw three of the linebackers, Gyasi Akem and two others, I’m not sure which.
“I was like, ‘Dang, those dudes are big. Those dudes are huge. They look like they’ve been here for two or three years.’”
With a crisis of depth at linebacker, that’s good news for the Cowboys, as some, if not all of four freshmen linebackers – Akem, Josh Mabin, Justin Phillips and Kirk Tucker – are in play to contribute. They all look the part, particularly Mabin (6-foot-2, 227), Akem (6-1, 210) and Phillips (6-0, 215). Tucker (6-2, 190) fits well, too, in the hybrid “Star” role.
“That’s the first step,” said defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Glenn Spencer. “At least I’m not sitting here saying, ‘Physically, these guys aren’t going to be ready for two or three more years. We couldn’t afford for that to happen.
“They took care of their business this offseason.”
Spencer cautions that there’s more to see than just passing the eye test. How will the newcomers adapt mentally? How will they hold up through the grind of August? How will they perform when the lights come on and every play carries consequence?
To be determined.
Still, OSU’s freshmen – and it’s a large class of 22, not including several promising recruited walk-ons – have made a strong immediate impression on the team’s veterans and coaches. And it’s across the board, with first-year guys making noise at many positions.
Quarterback Mason Rudolph continues to improve. Wideout James Washington wows with a catch daily. Corners Chris Hardeman and Ramon Richards keep coming at cornerback. And there are others, too.
“I see the youth and how they are young, because they ask questions because they don’t know,” said senior defensive tackle James Castleman. “But yet, they make up a lot with their athletic ability. They don’t know the play, but they do something crazy.
“We can coach the player, we don’t know how to coach athleticism. So that’s awesome.”
Van Malone noticed something special about this group early this summer.
“I’ve gone over to the facility on Sundays and seen freshmen, a group of freshmen, watching film, meeting on their own,” said the Cowboys assistant. “So this group, man, they’re the hardest working group of freshmen I’ve seen in terms of being in that film room.
“I think these guys’ work ethic and their attitude and just who they’ve been, who they’ve shown to be, as far as grouping together and watching and understanding as a group that there’s a great chance that they could play – man, that’s been exciting for me as a coach.
“Maybe they’ve been reading the headlines of, ‘You’ve Got A Shot To Be In The Two Deep!’ But guess what? That’s a good thing.”